We have been learning about famous paintings and their artists this year for our art study. The value of picture study reaches far beyond simple history, awareness, or appreciation- although those are all good things. Through picture study, my children are learning to pay attention to details. They are learning to notice things that are unique to each painting. Through the use of narration they share these observations with each other and with me. It is often interesting to see that they have noticed something that I did not. One of my favorite *noticing* moments this school year was when Aidan observed the "stripy parts" in Michelangelo's "Creation of Adam". Those stripy parts happen to be the cracks in the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. What a great lead in to how this art was created in the first place!
What is Child Size Masterpieces? Child Size Masterpieces is a collection of postcard size replications of artwork. For each piece of art there is a 3 part card set: a card with a painting replica, title, & artist (the control), a card with just title & artist, and a card with just the picture. The backs of the cards have more information (time period, where painted, where it is on display, and background info as well). They were designed by a Montessorian, Aline D. Wolfe. You can read a more thorough description here.
There is a book on how to use Child-Size Masterpieces available, but this is the way I have chosen to use them. The Child Size Masterpieces card sets begin with volumes designed for Matching, Pairing, & Sorting and then move into Learning the Names of The Artists and finally, Famous Paintings. All of the sets are in the same basic format and can be used with the outline I am about to share. I plan to use the same general approach with a different set of cards next year. It definitely reflects my Charlotte Mason/Montessori blend of philosophies!
Step 1: Weekly Picture Study
This is the longest phase, lasting for as many weeks as there are cards. Each week, chose one piece to introduce. We chose appropriate pictures whenever we could (Creation of Adam at the beginning of the year, Annunciation during Advent, etc.) You can introduce paintings two ways.
1- Display the photo card in a convenient location and allow the children to see it when they see it. At the end of the week, sit down and discuss what they noticed in the artwork. To encourage good observation, it is best not to look at the card while you are initially describing the image. Feel free to take it out as you continue to discuss & check your memory!
2- Chose one day per week as Picture Study Day (this is Tuesday at our house). During your designated time, sit in silence for one minute studying the picture. Use the card with no words so your readers and pre readers are looking at the image and not the words. I found it helpful to use the second card (the control) for Kylee to hold in her hands. After one minute we narrate, starting with the youngest participant. Kylee usually kept looking at her card and told us a color or a person she could see. It was cute, but probably pointless in the long run. She just likes to participate. Each person added upon what the others had to say, including Mommy! Then we would read the title and artist information, along with some of the background.
During this period, I kept all of the control cards we had studied in a wooden basket on our mantel. Probably weekly someone would take out all of the cards and look through them. You could also create a special place to display the images.
Step 2: Learning The Names & The Artists
After all of the images have been introduced, it is time to use the cards as 3 Part Cards the way they are designed. Using the 3 period lesson ("This is...", "Show me the...", "What is this?") re-introduce the cards a few at a time, adding more in as they are mastered.
You can also play memory games and use the images like flashcards. We also practiced by drawing a title/artist from the pile and taking turns describing the picture and then checking ourselves against the control card.
|Aidan paints Blue Boy by Gainsborough|
Step 3: Experiment With the Art
This could really be happening throughout the year, but I decided to do it mainly towards the end. Some ideas for this are duplicating the art from memory (the point being attention to detail/memory not replication/art skills) and experimenting with painting techniques (Can you paint laying on your back?) and materials.
We have had so much fun with art this year! Aidan had planned trips to see many of these paintings in person. (So he says, I asked how we were paying for this trip and he says we'll just ask Grandma to come with us.) I found out on Friday that there is a gallery not far from our house and I'd love to walk the boys over some day that Tim is home and we can look through things together. The boys are also taking an art class where they are having a chance to draw and paint to their little hearts content.
We don't do as much art as we do math, but I never want math and language to overshadow a well rounded education in the humanities!